No. 15 Auburn has bounced back nicely from a loss to No. 2 Clemson earlier this month - and the Tigers’ next big test comes Saturday night as they host No. 24 Mississippi State in a pivotal SEC showdown. Auburn reduced Missouri to rubble last weekend and will look to take advantage of a home meeting with a Bulldogs team coming off a shocking rout at the hands of Georgia.
This weekend will be a great barometer for the Auburn offense, which has struggled through the first four weeks of the season and will be in tough against a Mississippi State defense that had allowed just 28 points over its first three games before getting steamrolled 31-3 by Georgia. “We needed a game like this and it’ll do nothing but help us momentum-wise moving forward,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said of last week’s 51-14 thrashing of Missouri. “Specifically our offense, I‘m glad that they started to click and I think that’ll be a sign of things to come.” The Bulldogs had shown New Year’s Six-bowl potential prior to last week, and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham says that success may have played a role in last week’s one-sided defeat. “I just think that when you win a big game, you got to understand that it’s on to the next one and that kind of thing,” he told reporters earlier this week.
TV: 6 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Auburn -9
ABOUT MISSISSIPPI STATE (3-1, 1-1 SEC): At the top of the list for the Bulldogs this week: reinvigorating a passing game that produced a paltry 103 yards on 33 attempts against Georgia; Nick Fitzgerald had just 83 passing yards and two interceptions in one of the worst performances of his collegiate career. His dual-threat ability (41 carries, 287 yards, five touchdowns) will be one of Mississippi State’s most powerful weapons as they face a Tigers defense that ranks fourth in the nation in total defense (236.3 yards). The Bulldogs’ 6.1 yards per carry ranks among the national leaders, and it sits 14th in Division I at 267.5 rushing yards per contest.
ABOUT AUBURN (3-1, 1-0): Quarterback Jarrett Stidham has done his best Sam Bradford impression so far this season, completing nearly 71 percent of his passes but averaging 8.3 yards per attempt while throwing just three touchdown passes through four games. Fortunately for Auburn, its K-named rushing trio - Kam Martin, Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson - have picked up the offensive slack, rumbling for a combined 596 yards and 10 touchdowns on just 113 attempts. Pettway missed last week’s win over Missouri with an ankle injury, but Malzahn told reporters there’s a “high likelihood” of him returning to the lineup Saturday night.
1. Auburn is one of two teams ranked in the top-10 in Division I in total defense, scoring defense and passing defense.
2. Mississippi State has allowed just one sack through four games, the lowest total in the SEC.
3. The Tigers’ 45 points allowed through four games is their fewest to start a season since 2008.
PREDICTION: Auburn 34, Mississippi State 27